Friday, January 6, 2012

Recipes from Austria

Recipes from Austria
Last week I got a bit of a poor start, so this week I'm going to dive right in, with just a quick note to let you know that Henry is happily recovered and eating everything in the house, including all of that cocktail bread from last week's post, which frankly I can't understand because I have since decided that I personally really dislike pumpernickel bread.

So we're still in Austria this week, and if you don't already know a little about this small European country I'll just give a few details.

I was actually surprised to discover that Austria is one of the wealthiest nations in the world, with a per-capita GDP of around $48,000. This puts it in the same club as Switzerland, the United States and Brunei, as far as personal income for its citizens is concerned. Austria is landlocked and located in the Alps, so it is very mountainous with its highest peak at 12,461 feet elevation and only 32% of its land area below 1,640 feet. It is bordered by eight other nations, including Germany, Switzerland, Hungary and Italy, many of which have had an influence on its cuisine.

There's Austria, somewhere in the middle of Europe.

Food cooked in Austria is fine-dining almost by default; this is because of Austria's very strict food quality control laws. It is considered the number one European producer of organic foods and the government has taken many steps to limit or prohibit biotechnology, growth-hormones and other production-enhancing techniques that are standard practice here in the United States. The result is very high quality food products and a reputation for fine cuisine.

Filet mit Äpfeln and Gebackene Kohlsprossen. See if you can say that 10 times fast.

So with that in mind, I picked a fine-dining favorite as my Austrian main course: Filet mit Äpfeln (from Austrian, which is a broiled beef tenderloin served on sautéed apples. Here are the ingredients:

  • 6 6-ounce slices filet of beef
  • 1 pound potatoes
  • 2 egg yolks, well beaten
  • 2 tbsp ground horseradish
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 6 mushrooms, peeled
  • 2 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and sliced

On the side I did Gebackene Kohlsprossen (from Austrian, which is a baked dish made with Brussels sprouts, ham and mushrooms (note: if I did this over again I might have made a different side dish, since there were already mushrooms in the steak recipe).

For the sprouts:
  • 1 pound Brussels sprouts
  • 1 cup lean cooked ham
  • 1/2 pound mushrooms

For the sauce:
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup + 2 tbsp grated Parmesan, divided

I skipped dessert this time, mostly because the one I wanted to do required more time than I actually had that day. But I may post it separately anyway, because it looks seriously yummy.

I did do an appetizer, which was interesting. Notice how I did not say it was good, I said it was "interesting."

Remember the pumpernickel recipe from last week? Well I started with that (here it is again) (from Traditional Food):
  • 2 tbsp + 3/4 tsp active dry yeast
  • 1 3/4 cup warm water (105 to 115 degrees F)
  • 1/2 cup dark molasses
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon caraway seed
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 2 1/2 cups dark rye flour
  • 1 cup Shredded Wheat cereal
  • 1/4 cup cocoa
  • 2 to 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • Cornmeal
  • Butter or margarine, softened

And with the bread I did a popular cheese dish called Liptauer Käse (from Austrian

  • 8 ounces smooth farmer's cheese, room temperature
  • 3 tbsp finely chopped onion
  • 1 tbsp anchovy paste or finely chopped anchovies
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped capers
  • 1/2 tsp caraway seeds
  • 1/2 tsp sweet paprika

Which brings me to my first challenge of the week, which was the farmer's cheese.

Now, farmer's cheese doesn't necessarily mean the same thing to all people, and I'm still not sure I got it right. In these parts, you can't just go into a store and buy something called "farmer's cheese," oh no, because nothing is ever that easy. For me.

"Farmer's cheese" in its broadest interpretation is just an unripened cheese. Queso Fresco, which is that white crumbly stuff you often see on beans in Mexican restaurants, is sometimes called a farmer's cheese. So is cream cheese, and so is Ricotta. But these three cheeses would have made three completely different dishes, and I really had no idea which one would have been closest to the real thing, so I chose not to use any of them.

Instead I looked around locally for a cheese labeled "farmer's cheese," without any success. I did find some Halloumi at the co-op, though, which was annoying (do you remember what I had to do to get Halloumi back in Akrotiri?) After failing to find any farmer's cheese at any of three local markets, I decided to make some instead. Strictly speaking, "farmer's cheese" (the kind that is not Queso Fresco, cream cheese or ricotta) is compressed cottage cheese, and the technique for making it is really simple. Here are the ingredients:

  • 16 ounces 4% milk fat small curd cottage cheese
  • Cheesecloth

To make farmer's cheese, scoop the cottage cheese out of the pot and wrap it up in the cheesecloth. Squeeze it with your hands until the liquid comes out of it. Keep squeezing.

See all that liquid? Ew.

Now put the cheesecloth-wrapped cheese in a colander inside a bowl, and put the bowl in the fridge. Leave it for a day or two until all the liquid has drained out.

Let it drain in the fridge.

Remove the dry curds from the cheesecloth and put them in a food processor. Blend until smooth. You're done! (once the liquid has been squeezed out, you'll end up with about nine ounces of cheese).

Fresh farmer's cheese, after processing in a blender.

The next step of course is turning the farmer's cheese into Liptauer Käse, which is also pretty easy. Here are the instructions:

Mix everything together. Serve.

Just mix it all together ...

... and you're done!

 The Austrians like to eat Liptauer Käse on rye bread or on pumpernickel, which is where that recipe from last week comes in. I did decide to make it after all, mainly because Henry kept sneaking into the kitchen and eating all the cocktail pumpernickel behind my back.

So I did what I always do with bread recipes, and for the second week in a row I ended up with flat loaves, which means I may be rethinking my approach to converting bread recipes for the bread machine.

I always proof the yeast in warm water first, but my bread machine's dough cycle has a 30 minute delay at the beginning, which I'm now thinking is probably the equivalent of proofing the yeast. Maybe I'm over-proofing? If anyone has a guess, I'd love to hear it.

Anyway this part of the entry is a description of my failed bread-machine interpretation, so if you want the traditional instructions, please see last week's entry.

So after I proofed the yeast I put it and all the ingredients except the all-purpose flour into my bread machine and set the machine on the dough cycle. I let the machine mix for about 10 minutes, then I added all-purpose flour until the dough looked right. I did need the full 2 1/2 cups.

When the machine was finished and the dough had done its first rise, I turned it out onto a floured surface and divided it in two. Even with the 2 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour this was a really sticky dough, which may have been another part of my problem.

This dough seemed waaaay too sticky.

Undeterred though, I added a little cornmeal to a buttered cookie sheet and put the two dough halves on each end. I brushed some melted butter on the tops and let them rise for another 45 minutes.

Just about ready for the oven.

The final step of course is to bake at 375 degrees for 30 to 35 minutes, until you hear that hollow sound when you hit it with your knuckles. Or as in my case, a dull thump, because nothing that flat can make a hollow sound.

I could not taste the cheese over the strongly-flavored bread.

Now on to the steaks. Fortunately, steaks are hard to screw up.

Start by taking the steaks out of the fridge and rubbing salt and pepper into both sides. Keep them at room temperature for about an hour.

A little salt and pepper is all these need.

Filet mit Äpfeln is served on a potato cake, so the next step is to peel the potatoes and boil them in salted water for about 12 minutes. When they are soft, take them out and put them through a potato ricer. If you don't have a ricer you can use a potato masher, but you do need to make sure there aren't any lumps.

Riced potatoes.

Now mix the potatoes with the egg yolks, horseradish, and a little salt and pepper. Shape them into cakes that are roughly the same size as your steaks. Place them on a greased cookie sheet and bake them in a 375 degree oven for about 10 minutes, or until the tops turn a nice golden color. Flip them over and repeat with the other side. Remove from the oven and keep warm.

Two steak-sized potato cakes.

Light your broiler and cook the steaks, turning once, until they reach an internal temperature of about 135 degrees (remember that the temperature will continue to rise by about 10 to 12 degrees after you take them out of the oven, which will give you a medium-rare steak).

While your steaks are cooking, slice the apples and saute them with the mushrooms in melted butter.

Sauteing the mushrooms and apples.

When the meat has rested for about 10 minutes, assemble the dish. Start by placing a potato cake on the plate, then cover with sliced apple.

The first two layers ...

Put the steak on top and top with the mushrooms.

... and the next two.

The Gebackene Kohlsprossen can be prepared in advance, and then popped in the oven about 15 minutes before serving (I put them in the oven at the same time as the potato cakes, and then stuck them on the bottom rack for the last few minutes while the steaks were broiling to keep them warm).

Start by boiling the sprouts in salted water for 20 minutes or so, until they are tender.

Here's a quick note for all you Brussels sprouts haters, which is based purely on my anecdotal experience and some wisdom passed down by Martin's dad, who always used to say that Brussels sprouts shouldn't be picked until the crop has been through a good frost. He claimed that the frost took away some of the bitterness which is what puts a lot of people off of Brussels sprouts. Of course, here in California sprouts almost never get a frost, so fresh ones just aren't very nice. Personally, I will always buy frozen sprouts because I think freezing them does the same thing for them as a frost does. Though like I said, this is pure anecdote. I haven't even checked to see if anyone in the culinary world agrees with me.

In my defense, Brussels sprouts are really the only vegetable I will buy frozen.

Anyway, boil your sprouts, then drain them and put them in the bottom of a casserole dish. If you have enough of them, just put in half.

First put down the boiled sprouts.

Next, lay down the diced ham, or half of it if you're making a big batch.

Add the ham ...

Now the mushrooms, and so on, until you've used up all of your ingredients.

... then the mushrooms.

In a small bowl, beat together the egg, cream and 1/4 cup of the Parmesan cheese. Pour the mixture over the casserole and sprinkle with the remaining two tablespoons of grated cheese. Bake in a 400 degree oven for 10 to 15 minutes.

This dish is ready for the oven.

Martin and I had this meal after the kids went to bed. It's really just too hard for me to waste beef tenderloin on picky eaters.

You can't really go wrong with a filet, unless of course you overcook it, so the main meal was a nice treat. The potato cake had just enough horseradish in it to compliment the beef without being overwhelming, and the apples and mushrooms were a nice addition. I guess my only complaint was that I couldn't really figure out how to eat it all. I have no problem with recipes that incorporate many different flavors, but if you can't combine all the flavors in a single bite the dish just seems a little disjointed. In this case, it was impossible to get potato, meat, apple and mushroom on the fork at the same time, so I had to eat most of the layers separately. Martin's main complaint was that it just didn't seem different enough, which does seem to be his most-used Travel by Stove complaint. He's not really happy unless there's kangaroo in it I guess.

We both liked the Brussels sprouts, which were creamy and cheesy and worked really well with the mushrooms and ham. Since I was serving this with another meat, it might have been a good idea to cut back a bit on the ham.

What about the pumpernickel and the Liptauer Käse? Well, even if my bread hadn't come out flat, I don't think I would have liked it. Pumpernickel is just a little too bitter for me, and its flavor really overwhelmed the Liptauer Käse, to the point where I almost couldn't tell I'd even put anything on the bread.

The good news is, that extra loaf made an awesome frisbee.

Next week: Azerbaijan.



  1. Filet mit Äpfeln looks so lovely :)

  2. This is going to be my first Austrian recipe, im a noobie cook with only cooking games experience at lol so this is not going to be easy hehe.


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